I was looking through some notes on intention and motivation this morning and I came across some notes from doing a Charlie Morley golden shadow exercise from his book ‘Dreaming Through Darkness’. The golden shadow is made up of our good qualities and best aspirations, which often we are not able to admit to ourselves. The exercise was one of reflection and one of the questions was:
If I didn’t need money and were to follow my bliss – how would I spend my life?
One of my answers was ‘listening to music’, another was ‘on retreat and teaching’. It was the third answer that leapt out at me this morning ‘on my own’. This wish has come true. I am here in my cottage, on my own, doing quite a lot of practice, doing some teaching online and from time to time listening to music.
After an initial wobble and a process of coming to terms, I am now quite enjoying my day to day life – for the moment – at least. There are some people that I miss. There is some fear for what may happen. There is some grief for those who have been and will be lost. And I worry about running out of food! I do what is within my power to help where I can and I aspire and sometimes manage to let go of thinking about all of the things that I have no control over – which it turns out is almost everything! I enjoy connecting with friends and family on the phone and I enjoy connecting with other mindfulness practitioners at our daily online sit each evening.
Over all I am grateful for the position I find myself in, compared to many others who are having a much worse time. I am aspiring to do tonglen practice each day for those who are suffering in the current crisis. I might finally have time to get down to writing the compassion book, that Choden and I have been talking about writing for the last 18 months.
I am sharing a practice this week, which I use myself on a daily basis, as a way of staying strong, courageous and kind in the face of difficulty. It is based on the practice of circle of allies and you can access a guided audio file of it here. In the practice we bring to mind someone, real or fictional, maybe spiritual, or something from nature that embodies strength and stability. Then we imagine sitting with this character who embodies strength and stability and then we imagine breathing the quality of strength and stability in to our hearts and breathing it out to those around us and the wider world. Then we leave this character sitting in a circle with us and bring to mind another character who embodies a different quality. We do this for the qualities of kindness and warmth, courage and commitment, and wisdom and then finally for another quality personal us to us that we would like to embody. Then finally we sit within the circle of all these embodied qualities, breathing them all into our heart and breathing them out to those around us and the wider world.
Then once we are familiar with this practice, we can adapt it for daily life. If we are afraid, we can call on our character who embodies courage and breathe it into our heart and out into the situation and to all involved. If we are feeling selfish, we can call on our character of kindness. If we are feeling lost, we can call on our character of wisdom. If we are feeling disempowered, we can call on our character of strength and stability.
This practice can empower us with these qualities and enables us to recognise that we have these qualities within us already and that actually we are able to cope.
Sometimes my character of wisdom is one of my teachers, but at other times Gandalf or Dumbledore appear. As I shared a quote from, Gandalf last week, I will share one of my favourite quotes from Albus Dumbedore:
“It is our choices that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.”
Choose well my friends!
Here is Heather sharing one of her Mindful Tips for these difficult and challenging times.